This is my third complaint, in twelve months, about US shows screening in the UK. But season premieres started over in the US in force this past week and I’m already frustrated. Like I’ve said before, I don’t illegally stream or torrent TV shows , so I rely on legitimate broadcasts of shows, buying them on disc or streaming them through services like Netflix (I don’t have Sky, because I have issues with the company’s owners). However, with several big name shows signed-up with free UK broadcasters ( Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still with Channel 4 and Channel 5 have scooped up Gotham ) I was hoping that the channels would pursue broadcasting near the same broadcast date as the US.
Opening the way for piracy
It’s happened in the past with Heroes on BBC 2, and Channel 4 last year showed S.H.I.E.L.D. not long after the US broadcast times, at least in the first half of the season. This year, however, it’s waiting until some undetermined time in October, and Channel 5 is showing teasers for Gotham being out some time in October, but I’ve already had signs that people I know are pursuing streams or torrents of the shows, with some thinking about the iffy, but less detrimental route of hiding their IP and using services like Hulu.
And I don’t think channels can now say that the above activities are of a minority of tech savvy users. Compared to a few years ago, personally, I now know of more people who aren’t very tech literate who now look for current US shows they can stream onto their computer (regardless of what the cost to their machine may be), and do so, rather than waiting for a show to come out. I had a conversation with someone earlier this year about this very subject and two things I would not have called them were tech literate and a geek.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the BBC recently kicked up a fuss about persons in the country watching Doctor Who before it was being legitimately broadcast there. Powerless to do anything themselves, or so they believed, they demanded the Australian government did something to fix the issue.
Broadcasters and media creators and distributors made this problem
Now, I could easily continue to point the finger at viewers who do engage in the less legit means described above, but I’m not going to. The broadcasters and media creators and distributors that handle getting content out to countries where it wasn’t initially broadcast are the problem. These companies should have seen a long time ago that with the technology now at a level and proliferation that it is that they needed to up their game and work hard on simultaneous releases worldwide. The kinds of people who want to view this content live in a connected world, in which they have conversations with people who don’t even live in the same country as them.
Broadcasters know they can potentially lose revenue from shows being pirated, because it means less advertising or subscription money in the long term, but none of them seem to be keen on taking the necessary action to do something about it. The technology is there to distribute this content reasonably quickly, or at least it soon will be.
You could say that viewers should be patient and wait for shows to become available in their country, however in this connected world that is asking a lot. When the point of a lot of entertainment is not to know exactly blow-for-blow what is happening next, the internet becomes a minefield of spoilers. A minefield that is sometimes supplied by the press in their own countries! (Hello Telegraph.) So people either wait and adopt means and ways of avoiding spoilers (like I do) or they pirate.
But at the end of he day, this kind of piracy hurts shows and broadcasters more in the short term. If there are less eyeballs on shows when they’re broadcast, then that’s less advertising or subscription revenue to feed back into making these shows. In the long term, it’s less accurate viewer stats to ascertain whether it really might be worth keeping a show going, or being broadcast internationally, due to its international audience.
Or maybe broadcast TV is over
I haven’t said it so far, but there’s another thing that streaming or using torrents means for viewers: convenience. They get the show when and where they want it. Broadcast television, try as it does sometimes, is no longer the event media it once was. There’s so much of it and there’s so much other content out there vying for our attention. Perhaps what really needs to happen is a complete distribution shift, with more focus on online access rather than airwaves.
Are broadcasters now an unnecessary middleman to production studios getting their content in front of audiences? If not right now, it’s certainly beginning to feel like it. As I’ve said before , these studios need to really start thinking about the distribution channels they’re prioritising or their content may not be getting to the right audience at the right time.